Friday, September 29, 2017

How to Fail at Empathy.

Several close friends have pointed out to me that empathy is not my strongest quality. It's true, and it's something I'm trying to work on. The hardest part is resisting the urge to offer advice when all the other person really needs is someone to listen and be on their team. It takes a shift in mindset from "I want to help" to "I am here with you".

Romans 12:15-16 offers some good insight on this:

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight."

The last part is the kicker. Never be wise in your own sight. That's where the downfall always happens: when I try to become the expert. It's so easy to shift into thinking about my similar experiences and my ways of fixing a problem. The thing is, often when someone is hurting, they don't want to be told how to fix stuff unless they're literally asking for that type of help. Usually, when someone is hurting, they just want their frustrations to be heard. They want someone who will acknowledge their hurt and accept how they are feeling. They need someone who will be part of the struggle with them rather than standing on the sidelines offering counsel.

When we are with hurting friends, we need to check our motives. Are we humbly striving to follow Romans and "rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep"? Or do we really just want to be the one with all the answers?

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